Volume 3, Number 19, May 8, 2006
Floridians scored a victory this session with nearly $1 billion set aside for insurance relief, including $715 million to reduce the burden of insurance assessments and $250 million to hurricane-proof homes which will help lower insurance premiums.
Since 2004, I have urged legislators to earmark surplus revenue collected during hurricane recovery to help homeowners deal with insurance assessments, hurricane repairs and hurricane preparation, and the Legislature has responded.
We have collected millions in sales taxes during hurricane recovery and the fair thing to do was to give it back to Florida’s families to deal with insurance costs.
Senate Bill 1980 directs $715 million be used to offset insurance assessments levied by Citizens Property Insurance Corporation for a deficit caused by losses during the 2005 hurricane season. Under Florida law, the company’s deficit must be paid through assessments on all Florida homeowners' insurance policies.
The legislature also set aside $250 million to help Floridians strengthen their homes to withstand hurricane winds, bringing the total relief for insurance costs to nearly $1 billion. The $250 million would be used to do free home inspections for homeowners and provide matching grants up to $10,000 for home improvements.
Even with this important victory, we must continue our quest for federal solutions to help strengthen our property insurance market and improve availability, including the creation of a national catastrophe fund as well as catastrophe savings accounts.
Federal and state reforms combined with insurance relief will help ensure a long-term victory for Florida’s homeowners.
GALLAGHER: POLICYHOLDERS TO RECEIVE MORE THAN $2 MILLION IN REFUNDS
Tom Gallagher, Florida’s chief financial
officer, said that American Mercury and Mercury Insurance companies have
agreed to refund more than $2 million to their policyholders in Florida.
According to the state’s Office of Insurance Regulation, its examination of
the two companies was initiated based on consumer complaints referred by the
Department of Financial Services and found the companies improperly
cancelled coverage and denied claims.
GALLAGHER ON LEGISLATION TO COMBAT INSURANCE FRAUD
BILL PASSES TO FIGHT METH
“The number of meth labs found in Florida has increased by 1,100 percent in five years, and that means more children, first responders and communities are at risk,” Sen. Baker said. “We must do all we can to fight back against this insidious drug.”
Culp said the legislation builds on successful strategies already put in
place by Gov. Jeb Bush and the Governor’s Office of Drug Control.
“Strategies such as putting cold medicines containing ephedrine behind
the counter were a significant first step, but for those who still have
not gotten the message that we don’t want meth in our state, they will
know we mean business when they are left to sit behind bars.”
This past weekend in Tallahassee, alert residents complained of a strong
odor that made their eyes burn. Their call to law enforcement led to the
arrests of seven people suspected of operating a meth lab.
The chemicals used to create meth are highly toxic and flammable, and many labs are also booby-trapped. As a result, more than 1,000 first responders have been injured in meth labs found in 16 states, including Florida, since 2001. Nearly half of all children rescued from homes or living areas used as meth labs test positive for meth and need urgent medical care.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office has provided intensive meth lab training
to nearly 700 emergency responders, and this summer the State Fire
Marshal’s Office and FDLE will hold courses to certify 50 additional
officers who can respond to and dismantle meth labs.
The brochure is available at www.MyFloridaCFO.com/fightmeth.
GALLAGHER ON BILL RESTRICTING GOVERNMENT TAKING OF PRIVATE PROPERTY
The Florida Legislature today passed HB 1567 which restricts the government taking of private property. Following the bill’s passage Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher released the following statement:
“Last year’s decision allowing private property to be taken by government to fatten its tax base or for economic development was an outrage. This bill provides a common sense check on the power of government and is great news for the property owners of our state.
“Within one day of the Kelo decision Speaker Bense responded and formed the Select Committee to Protect Private Property Rights. I congratulate him and I thank Rep. Rubio for championing this legislation to increase the power of Florida property owners and limit the power of government.”
STATE LAWMAKERS APPROVE LEGISLATION TO IMPROVE
Tom Gallagher, Florida’s chief financial officer, applauded state lawmakers in both the House and Senate for passing legislation he proposed to boost financial literacy efforts in Florida. The legislation creates a Financial Literacy Council to serve as a central resource for consumers and small businesses on financial issues. Gallagher said he proposed the measure in response to polls showing too many Floridians are in precarious financial condition and are waiting too long to plan for their future.
“Data shows that one-third of Floridians have more debt than savings and are not saving enough to retire,” said Gallagher. “The Financial Literacy Council will serve as central resource and clearinghouse for families and small businesses to obtain the information and resources they need to make informed financial decisions.”
The new law creates a ten-member Financial Literacy Council headed by the Chief Financial Officer which would study the problems that affect consumers, particularly small businesses, young people, and seniors. It would be charged with creating a comprehensive state resource to provide financial planning assistance to Floridians. The resource will include user-friendly information on savings, loans, investment products, managing debt, and planning for college expenses and retirement.
The committee will also conduct outreach to assure consumers are made aware of the financial tools it develops through both web-based media, written educational materials and by holding public meetings around the state.
The bill was sponsored by Sen. Jeff Atwater and Rep. Thad Altman. Sen. Atwater said, “This resource will help our seniors navigate the often confusing choices they face in funding their retirement and more importantly will steer them away from poor investments that rob them of their savings.”
“Floridians need a resource that can provide easy-to-understand, common sense financial information from a source that isn’t looking to sell them something” said Rep. Altman. “That is what this legislation aims to create for our state’s consumers.”
The Financial Literacy Council would consist of nine members appointed by the CFO. The committee members would be required to represent the state’s cultural, ethnic and geographic makeup and will be drawn from various areas of the financial industry, the senior population and the public.
Consumer Services HelpLine (800) 342-2762